Hospitality Is About Connection, Not Perfection

August 23, 2019

By: Dainty Jewell’s blog guest writer Marilyn Herring


The dictionary’s definition of hospitality is “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.”

Synonyms include: warm reception, helpfulness, neighborliness, warm-heartedness, kindness, congeniality, sociability, cordiality, amicability, generosity, bountifulness, and open-handedness.

Notice, none of those said, “You have to have millions of dollars and be the best DIY’er in the world to offer good hospitality.” You just have to be warm, kind and generous.  The last synonym is my favorite: open-handedness.

I once heard a minister say, “You can’t be blessed with balled up fists.” 

Visualize this for a second.  If you are sitting around with balled up fists, God can’t fill those hands with blessings.  If your hands are open, they are just waiting to be filled! 

2 Corinthians 9:6 reminds us, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.”  (KJV)

Sis A.O. Holmes used to say, “My cup is so full, it’s running over into the saucer!” This is the kind of reaping I want to do.

I’m a people person and I love to spoil, so hospitality comes pretty naturally to me.  This doesn’t mean I have casseroles in the freezer waiting to be given out, nor does it mean I have guests over for dinner every night, but it does mean I know it when I see it!

People try to set limitations on hospitality and keep it contained to certain times or events, but it can actually be expressed in many different ways. 

Let’s take a look:

Food hospitality is one we all know and love. Inviting a few couples over for dinner or dessert, being invited out for a girls night, your child spending the night with their friend, a new neighbor moving in next door . . . All of these usually involve food, beverages, and a good time. If you are the one doing the going, it may include a hostess gift, too. I wouldn’t say they are expected, but they certainly don’t go unnoticed. I still remember the first hostess gift I received. 

Because I love to gift, I’m often asked if a hostess gift is always appropriate. Personally, I try to never go somewhere empty-handed. That being said, if you are taking a dish to a party, you could technically consider that to be your “gift.” If I’m having dinner at a friend’s house and I’ve been there 8,323 times, I’ll probably take the dish and not worry so much about a gift. If it’s my first time coming to your house for dinner, you are getting a dish and a small something. 

I love to keep my eye out for small things to use as gifts and then keep them stashed away in my gift closet (don’t judge me).  Candles, hand soaps in pretty pump bottles, cute Mud Pie items, and just about anything HomeGoods or TJMaxx has on their shelves is a winner to me. (*Do be careful with scents, though.) 

At the church, we often have guest ministers and their families in for a few days. We always like to provide them with a hospitality basket in their hotel room or evangelists quarters. While I in no way make them all, I do get to participate in the fun quite a bit. I really get excited when it’s time to make baskets for Arkansas International Campmeeting or Mid America Youth Conference. 

This means even more water bottles, Starbucks coffee drinks, chips, cookies, pretzels, candy, and on and on we go. I like to package gourmet treats when I can, but I also know that simple Target runs have fulfilled many dreams too.

While I call them gift baskets, I have actually never used a basket. I love the look of a 12” x 12” square white box with a pretty ribbon. If I have quite a few to make, a large gift bag is my best friend. For our 70th Arkansas International Campmeeting, we used white square boxes with lids and tied them up with a beautiful music note ribbon (in honor of our CD recording).  They were GORGEOUS. What we didn’t think about though was transporting 70 boxes with wired bows to several local hotels. Miraculously, no boxes were harmed during transport.

For #ARICM19, we decided to go with matte gold gift bags, navy shred and tissue paper, and a cute tag tied on with navy-and-cream striped ribbon. They were as gorgeous as the boxes the year before and could not have been done without Chelsea Pomeroy spearheading the project.   

One of our pastors loves to offer refreshments to anyone who comes to his office. I’ve started creating a candy table in his office. I use the term “candy” loosely because depending on my mood, I’ve let it morph into a number of other things: homemade cookies, chocolate-covered nuts, Little Debbie Christmas tree cakes, etc. Moral of the story: EVERYONE LOVES THIS TABLE, including me!

Countless people have stopped me to tell me they got a treat from the table.  A small measure of hospitality has brightened the days of everyone from high school seniors to church staff to counseling sessions to anyone else who happens to meander through there. 

I typically do this table on a seasonal or event basis. For example: Valentine’s, spring/Easter, summer, patriotic, ARICM, fall, Mid America Youth Conference, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Here are a few I’ve done. (Feel free to find me on Instagram @marilyn1982 to see many more.)

Lodging is probably one of the first things that comes to mind when you think of hospitality. How many people spend a single night at your house?  How many people come in for a conference/event/wedding/funeral etc., and stay in your home? For some people, it’s often, and they have a system/routine down pat. For others, it doesn’t come so easily and strikes fear in their heart. There are things to think about, meals to prepare, snacks to have on hand, towels to wash, spare keys to be made, and who knows what else!

I’ll never forget visiting my friends Ginger and Miranda a few years ago. Ginger’s parents fixed up a mother-in-law’s quarters for us to stay in, but what I really remember is the basket of snacks Ginger’s dad made. He went to the store on his own and selected Peter Pan natural peanut butter, bread, Cheetos, Little Debbie’s and Dr. Peppers. The fact that someone took the time to do so much for us meant so much. They fed us so well that weekend, but that didn’t stop us from gobbling up those goodies!

Here’s something my sister-in-law, Angie, does that I think is so clever. Her husband travels a lot for work and often stays at boutique-type hotels. She has him bring the “fancy” soaps/shampoos/conditioners/mouthwashes from the hotel and stores them in a large apothecary jar in her guest bathroom. This is perfect if your guest forgets a toothbrush, shampoo, or whatever. 

Don’t let boutique toiletries deter you, though; this would work just as well with items from the Hampton, or you could fix up a cute basket with toiletries from the travel section at Walmart. You have to watch it though: those little dudes add up fast! ???? (Ask me how I know!)

A quick Google search rendered several neat options that would work with any bathroom décor:

Travel hospitality sometimes goes right along with lodging hospitality.  When you have guests come in from out of town, you not only want to “wine and dine” them, but you also want to offer options for activities: museums, maybe a presidential library, a local farmers market, golfing, hiking, cardboard sledding, etc.

Some of us also entertain out-of-town coworkers. Even though they are staying in a hotel, they often ask for restaurant recommendations as well as a list of things to do. Having a list ready to go is very beneficial. I’ve also taken the time to take them on tours of Little Rock or to eat at a favorite restaurant. Any time I’ve done this, it’s been well appreciated.

Recently, I have had out-of-state coworkers move to Little Rock. I’ve sort of taken on the task of making normal day-to-day recommendations, but have also given suggestions on the best doctor, auto insurance company, realtor, weekend activities, festivals, and the list goes on and on.

Speaking of work, I am an instructor. I teach classes in both a classroom and a hotel conference room setting. I strive to make each of these venues one where the participant not only learns, but also feels at home. Coffee, snacks, drinks, more coffee, lunch, the temperature just right, and other little details, all play a part in workplace hospitality.

Sometimes it’s easy to think of work simply as work, but in reality, I’m a hostess and have invited them into my environment same as if I invited people to my home.

Do you have to have a particular skill to be hospitable? I personally don’t think so. If you can smile and be friendly, you can be hospitable. Again, hospitality looks different for everyone. An introvert may never invite someone into her home for a week but may love bringing a hostess gift to a quiet dinner at a friend’s house. Neither is wrong.

A lady I’ve been following on Instagram is Amy Hannon, owner of Eunamae’sEunamae’s is the cutest kitchen store you’ve ever laid eyes on, located in Springdale, AR. I began following Amy primarily because her store was so adorable, and everything she posted spoke to my soul. The day I finally got to visit her store, I said, “I’m in love, take ALL my money!”

Recently, I’ve begun following her message more than just the cute things in her store. In addition to being a pastor’s wife, Amy has a calendar full of speaking engagements with a focus on biblical hospitality. This past June, I got to see Amy in person and fell in love even more. 

She reminded a church full of women that hospitality doesn’t have to be a farm table in a field of poppies while you wear the most perfect linen dress of all time and have fresh bread loaves sticking out of wicker baskets, with the most perfect mix match of shabby chic china you’ve been collecting for 10 years (or that your grandmother handed down). *See beautiful Google images.

Instead, hospitality means inviting your small group over at the last minute for spaghetti with frozen garlic bread eaten off of paper plates, and a pitcher of sweet tea poured into red SOLO cups.

All people care about is being loved, and feeling like they matter. Hospitality means to love as Jesus loves us — to welcome people into our homes, porches, and yards. To serve.

Look how happy the people in this photo are. Do they look like they care that they are eating off of paper plates and drinking out of red SOLO cups? Absolutely not. They look relaxed, carefree, and as if they are having the time of their lives. I want to pull up a chair and laugh with them.

Amy signs every cookbook with 1 Peter 4:8-11:

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God” (New International Version).

It seems pretty plain to me! Hospitality is about loving others well, whenever or wherever the opportunity presents itself. – Gracetable.org

Here’s a picture of Amy and me the night I got to hear her speak. I’m so in love with what she is doing. You can find her Love, Welcome, Serve cookbook on Amazon. It’s a beautiful book you’ll want to add to your collection.

At the end of the day, hospitality isn’t really about entertaining. It’s about focusing on the one who walks through your welcoming door, wherever that may be — home, church, work, school, etc.

If you are at a complete loss on where to start, here are some simple ideas for hospitality:

  • Pour a cup of coffee/tea for someone
  • Serve something pre-made
  • Have a watermelon party
  • Host a game night
  • Coordinate a potluck
  • Use paper products
  • Keep an open door
  • Invite new friends
  • Utilize a crockpot/air fryer/Instantpot
  • Just serve dessert (even store-bought)

Hospitality is not about elaborate meals or perfectly groomed homes. Hospitality is about sharing real life together.  It is about living life in community.  – Hospitable Homemaker


Marilyn Herring loves Jesus, Chris, gift wrap, celebrating, traveling, and all things mini.  When she isn’t in her “she shed” creating magic, she can be found at First Pentecostal Church, TJMaxx, Target, Hobby Lobby, or Chick-fil-A.

Monday through Friday usually requires a presence at work where she is an instructor for a rapidly growing financial institution, Bank OZK.

Marilyn’s husband, Chris, says she overthinks just about everything, but Marilyn says she overloves — which means she values people, emotions, promises, and some things.